Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated a pledge to repeal a controversial piece of legislation, commonly known as the Johnson Amendment, that penalizes charitable organizations including churches for endorsing political candidates as he officially accepted his party's nomination Thursday night.
"At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community and I'm not sure I totally deserve it ... They have so much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits," said Trump to the audience gathered on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
"An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views," said Trump. "I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans."
In a speech that came across as a comprehensive reiteration of familiar talking points he has been sharing along the campaign trail, Trump framed himself as the candidate most uniquely positioned to trust with some of the nation's most controversial policy issues in areas such as law and order, religious freedom, immigration, foreign policy, LGBT protections, healthcare and education.
"In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate. The irresponsible rhetoric of our President, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment for everyone," said Trump, who promised to start putting Americans first.
"This Administration has failed America's inner cities. It's failed them on education. It's failed them on jobs. It's failed them on crime. It's failed them at every level.
"When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally," Trump said. "Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?"
Trump vowed to protect the LGBTQ community and praised the convention delegates for their reaction to his discussion of the subject.
"Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community. No good and we're gonna stop it. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.
"And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you," Trump said as the delegates applauded.
The billionaire who mostly stayed on script for the more than hour-long speech made other familiar declarations such as his intention to build a wall along the Mexican border and enforcing the law concerning illegal immigrants.
"We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities. I have been honored to receive the endorsement of America's Border Patrol Agents, and will work directly with them to protect the integrity of our lawful immigration system," said Trump. "Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied — and every politician who has denied them — to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 20th of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced. We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone."
His greatest compassion, says Trump, will be for struggling Americans.
He also reiterated his plan to renegotiate trade deals and bring back outsourced jobs to benefit the American worker.
"My sole and exclusive mission is to go to work for our country — to go to work for all of you. It's time to deliver a victory for the American people … But to do that, we must break free from the petty politics of the past," said Trump.
"America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics. Remember: all of the people telling you that you can't have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn't be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place," he said.
"Instead, we must choose to believe in America. History is watching us now. It's waiting to see if we will rise to the occasion, and if we will show the whole world that America is still free and independent and strong," noted Trump.
"My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: 'I'm With Her.' I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: 'I'm with you, the American people,'" he continued.
"So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I'm With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you," he added.